Merchant, women's basketball team continue domination over U-M
Sunday’s 79-72 victory against Michigan was familiar territory for women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant.
In her seven years in the top seat, MSU has played the Wolverines 16 times — and lost only twice.
The win is part of a streak of five straight victories for the women’s basketball team.
“No, never gets old, never gets old,” Merchant said of defeating the rival school. “It’s a great rivalry, a lot of fun to play in. Certainly when you grow up in the state, you know what that Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is and you take it very seriously.
“Our kids do, I’m sure they do as well, can’t speak for them. But I know we do. Beating Michigan, it’s fun.”
Last season, MSU won two of three matches, losing the lone game in Ann Arbor 70-69 before bouncing back to eliminate U-M from the Big Ten Tournament.
The loss was a rare one for MSU, as they have won nine of the last 11 matches at Crisler Center with the win on Sunday.
The dominance extends beyond Merchant’s tenure as coach.
MSU has won 22 of the last 24 meetings and is 63-16 all-time against the Wolverines.
Merchant offered praise for U-M’s rapidly-improving program after the win Sunday. Two of the program’s six NCAA Tournament berths have come in the past two seasons.
Former U-M women’s basketball coach Kevin Borseth led the team to the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the 2011-12 season.
Last year, current head coach Kim Barnes Arico took the reins and led the team to one of the best years in program history, finishing 22-11 before falling in the second round of the tournament.
With each passing year, it appears the gap between the two programs is becoming smaller and smaller.
As the Wolverines rise to prominence, it can only be an asset for both fans within the state and for the Big Ten Conference as a whole.
“Michigan has a lot to offer student-athletes, just as Michigan State has a lot to offer student-athletes,” Merchant said. “For us, it’s always good to have that great rivalry, to have a crowd like that.”
Merchant also said Michigan has made it a point to improve its overall program in recent years.
“I think (Barnes Arico has) done a really nice job (at U-M). In the last seven, nine years, you can see Michigan has made a concerted effort to put women’s basketball on the map in those decisions and those coaching hires, and they’ve done a great job.”